Florida Secretary of State weighs in on petition fraud arrests

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A Jacksonville couple has been arrested and charged for allegedly submitting more than 1,000 fraudulent petitions for at least two ballot initiatives to change the state constitution.

RELATED: Jacksonville husband and wife accused of collecting fake signatures for amendment petitions

Duval Supervisor Mike Hogan told us he’s never seen this level of suspected fraud before with more than 1,100 petitions in question.

When Hogan’s staff got a stack of petitions all filled out with similar ink and similar handwriting, they got suspicious.

But those clues weren’t the biggest give away.

“This, we rarely see. So, it looked like a computer had just spit it out,” said Hogan.

Hogan showed us an example of what the now-rejected petitions his office received looked like, compared to a stack of valid petitions, which appeared lightly weathered.

“Instead, normally when you see a canvasser out, they’ve got a clipbook, clip pad, and they’re taking signatures, the person is writing on it, it might rain, they might spill their coffee or their tea on it,” said Hogan.

According to arrest warrants issued Monday more than 100 rejected petitions were allegedly submitted by 46-year-old Corri Moore and an additional thousand-plus rejected petitions were allegedly submitted by 42-year-old Michelle Moore.

“This is a game. They saw a hole and they went through it,” said Hogan.

Hogan told us this isn’t the first time he’s seen fraud in the citizen initiative process, but he’s never seen it at the scale of this case.

“This is unprecedented,” said Hogan.

The warrants say the couple had been hired by Umunna Legal Group in Jacksonville.

TRENDING STORY: Two suspects charged after officer-involved shootout and stolen car incidents

We contacted the firm and spoke with Obi Umunna, who told us the couple was only employed by the firm for two months.

During that time, he said they collected signatures for an affordable housing citizen initiative and an initiative to expand casino gaming in Florida.

He told us they were fired in October of 2021 because the number of petitions they were submitting ‘seemed impossible’.

We spoke with Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd who said cases like this one exemplify the need for the recently established election integrity unit.

“So, the Secretary of State’s Office and the Office of Election Security want to partner with counties across the state to ensure that our laws are being enforced and that people’s identities aren’t being stolen,” said Byrd.

He also said it’s why in 2019, Florida lawmakers made it illegal to compensate petition circulators based on the number of petitions they gather, in hopes of disincentivizing fraud.

“This is not, oh this is just a petition it’s no big deal. These petitions change our state constitution,” said Byrd.

Umunna told us the firm does offer bonuses to petition gatherers and explained those bonuses can be awarded to employees based on how well they work, the accuracy of their work, showing up on time, and how many hours they put in.

Umunna told us the bonuses his firm offers are not tied to signature quotas.

Still, Hogan asserted the firm could have done more.

“It’s up to them to make sure they hire the right people, and they train them correctly,” said Hogan.

Corri and Michelle Moore were officially booked into Duval County Jail on Wednesday.

Their bonds were set at $50,003 and $25,003 respectively.

Umunna Law Firm said it has been cooperating with authorities throughout the case.

No one with the firm has been charged with any crimes, beyond the two circulators employed formerly employed by the firm.